Casa Cool Beans – Santa Teresa

Santa Teresa is an area of Rio de Janeiro, high up on the hill tops with incredible views over the city. It’s a bohemian district, full of street art, cool shops, independent clothes boutiques and some fantastic restaurants. It’s also linked well to other districts with the famous tram, as well as being an easy location to get a bus or taxi from.

I stayed at Casa Cool Beans, a trendy boutique style B&B close to the centre of Santa Teresa. It’s a short walk to the main street, in a quiet residential area with great security.

The entrance to the B&B is a leafy green tropical garden providing a shady area to relax with a great view of the property itself.

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There’s a fantastically colourful pool area with great wall decorations surrounding it. Rio gets pretty hot as you will be well aware and it’s so lovely to be able to have a dip in the pool to cool down. 810_3279810_3307

There are some sunbeds and comfy sofas to relax on, and throughout the day guests lounged under the umbrellas with a book or a drink and got away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Rio. The breakfast in the morning is served poolside and is really something to look forward to. There’s a friendly breakfast chef, cooking up daily omelettes and daily specials like ‘pancake day’, as well as local suggestions. There’s a selection of meats, cheeses, breads, pastries and cereals as well as juices and coffee. The breakfast area is social and overlooks a lovely church so you can sit and hear the bells ringing on some mornings.

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The staff went above and beyond right from the moment I arrived. On top of the helpful notice board with local attractions and maps, the manager printed out information about events we might like, including directions and timings, as well as suggesting local restaurants to try. I also arrived well before my check in time, but they were flexible and allowed to me check in straight away, as well as storing my luggage for the final day after check out.

The rooms themselves are spacious, cool and decorated in a fun yet simple way. My room had a lovely balcony with pool views and a big bathroom with luxury toiletries. There’s a mini bar stocked with drinks and a super comfy bed to look forward to at the end of your day exploring.

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The whole B&B is colourful and vibrantly decorated, from the front of the building to even the crockery used at breakfast time, and matches Rio’s colourful image perfectly.

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Chicken Street in Hanoi | BBQ Chicken Street Ly Van Phuc

Hanoi is an absolute gem for street food lovers. I lived there 7 years ago and on my visits back since then, while a lot of the larger food establishments have changed hands or disappeared completely my favourite street food vendors have stayed put.

Top of this list has to be Ly Van Phuc (pronounced Lee Van Fuk) or as it’s more commonly known “Chicken Street/ BBQ Chicken Street.” It’s one of the top street food destinations in Hanoi if not the whole of Vietnam and despite this it’s still much better known amongst the locals and ex-pats than the many backpackers that visit the city as it’s slightly out of the main town area.

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The vendors might all appear to be selling the same grilled chicken and potatoes but the tried and tested favourite is right down to the end of the road and on the right…trust me!

The menu is fairly simple and all the below are brushed with honey before being grilled to perfection on the open grills you can see all along the street. You’ll also be served chilli sauce and pickled cucumbers in sweet vinegar to go with it.

bánh mì – grilled bread
cánh gà – chicken wings
khoai – roasted sweet potato, cubed on skewers

For the more adventurous there’s also the option of local favourite; chicken feet. Don’t be concerned if you don’t fancy trying out your Vietnamese, staff here are used to foreigners pointing out what delicious food they want to try next, so just point and hold the appropriate number of fingers up!

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Make sure to wash down your meal with glasses of local Bia Hoi. If I’m honest I’ve never really understood the pricing system here and I’m sure it changes slightly every time I’ve been, however a meal for two including all the chicken, bread and potatoes we could eat plus 3 beers each came to less than $10 this time which I can’t complain about.

Now as you’re sat on small plastic stools which I’ve seen many a westerner break and rubbish is pushed onto the floor to be cleaned at the end of the night…admittedly you might feel that the surroundings are not 5* standard, however the scores of motorbikes arriving night after night shows that this place’ popularity is here to stay, and there isn’t a star system high enough to score how good the food here!